Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Letter From Mary

Written by Mary Overduin
Last month we printed an unsigned report we received about a funeral which was attributed to Missionary Ken Herfst. The report actually was from Mary Overduin. Many of us have wondered how Mary is doing since she returned to Guatemala following her medical problems. We print some excerpts from a recent "Circular Letter" which not only gives information about her work but also about her physical condition.
July 1994

Dear Friends,

It is with a thankful and happy heart that I can greet you all from a beautiful green Cubulco. Presently it is the rainy season. During this time it is usually sunny, warm (hot) and humid during the day with rain and often thunderstorms later in the afternoon. But for some time now we have not had much rain and the corn, the staple food here, looks pretty wilted. In some areas it has not rained at all and the crops have been destroyed.

Language Studies
Almost immediately [upon return to Cubulco in April] I started with studying both Spanish and Achi. My knowledge of the Spanish language did deteriorate in the year away from it all. In the first weeks I reviewed my textbook and also a book entitled, "English Grammar for Students of Spanish," which is quite helpful. A girl named Lydia comes to my home to do the house cleaning three mornings per week and the first hour we do some language study. I read two chapter from both the Spanish and the Achi Bible, and she also corrects the Bible studies and the Sunday school stories I write.

Since the third week of May I am once again getting Achi lessons from Victoriano, a man who works at the hospital. He comes one evening per week, for two hours. In two lessons he managed to give me approximately 300 new words to learn! This language involves a lot of memorization. Two weeks ago he had given me about 50 short sentences to learn, for example: Kak in 'u' [my clothes are red; literally; red my clothes]. However, at the next lesson, instead of giving me the Spanish sentence to translate, he proceeded to ask me questions in Achi which required as answers the short sentences I had learned. For example, Wach catzun a 'u'? [What colour are your clothes?] It was very tricky, especially as some of the words he used I had not yet learned! But it was a good exercise and he had lots of fun. So, this past week I tried to make questions myself for all the sentences. Although there were lots of mistakes, I did have the right idea and learned quite a few things from it. The language is very complicated and difficult to learn and I am afraid it will take a long time before I can really speak it and understand it. It is, however, a priority, as the Achi women know no other language.

Bible Studies
I presently have two groups of women for Bible study. One group comes to my house with Rosa, the woman I was doing Bible studies with last year, and a sister of her husband. We are studying the Gospel of John, but I will not be doing it verse by verse. Although these women know some Spanish, it is very limited. We listen to the Bible reading in Achi on tape, and then I have a message in Spanish. When I ask questions, they sometimes try to answer, and occasionally discuss together in Achi. Their knowledge of the Bible is almost nil, so it has to be very simple and one can never assume that they will know common Bible names, like David, for example.

The other group is in the Colonia, at the home of Santiago, Ken Herfst's helper. It is about a twenty minute walk from here. The attendance ranges from three to eight women. Most of the women are related to Santiago; his mother, his wife and some of her sisters and sisters-in-law. It seems as if they know even less Spanish than Rosa does. Even though the language is a barrier, it is good to have these studies together, as none of them can read and for that reason they seldom come into contact with God's Word. Please pray that the Lord will bless these Bible studies, so that they may come to know Him and/or be strengthened in their faith.

Sunday Services and Sunday School
On Sundays we have a church service at 8.00 a.m. on Ken Herfst's porch. The service is in Spanish/Achi. Ken preaches in Spanish and a young man, Alexandro, translates into Achi. The group is small, but is gradually growing. Not too long ago a man, Domingo, from an aldea about a five-hour walk away, came into contact with the Gospel through Santiago and since then he has come to faith. The place he lives in, however, is a strong Roman Catholic area which opposes people having a Bible, and he presently is the only Christian in the whole area and is experiencing persecution from the church, former friends (he was quite a drinker) and from his father-in-law who even threatened to chase him off the land. He has a wife and three children, two of them being deaf. Please pray for him and his family.

After the service I have a Sunday school class while Ken teaches the adults catechism. The children in my class range from three to fourteen years old. Usually, there are between twenty to twenty-five children. At first I found it quite difficult as it is frustrating not to be able to tell the story, but to have to read it (in Spanish). It is a little easier now that I know the children better and feel more comfortable. We have just started with the wilderness journey of the Israelites. After each class I give them a picture related to the story to colour. This is done on Ken and Jackie Herfst's porch while the adults have a time of discussion and fellowship.

Other Activities
Every other Friday evening we have a service at the home of Santiago. We do a lot of singing, some in Spanish and mostly in Achi. Alexandro, who translates, also plays the guitar--a common a musical instrument here. After the service there is a time of fellowship with "mountain coffee" and a type of bun.

Every Sunday evening the mission workers (presently three families: John and Connie Otten at the hospital, Ken and Jackie Herfst, and myself) come together for a time of singing, meditation and prayer. Every other Saturday Ken teaches at a Bible School.

I keep very busy with language study, preparation of Bible studies and Sunday School stories, and of course, housekeeping duties. I have managed to lose those pounds I gained during my year in Canada!

I can thankfully say that on the whole I am feeling very well. My hand is still giving me some trouble, but it is much better. It goes up and down. Some days I have hope that it will improve, while other days it seems to get worse. Especially writing and typing, two things I have to do a lot, still cause discomfort, and at times pain, and therefore I need to exercise regularly.

I am sorry I cannot write everyone personally. I thank you for your letters and cards. Mail is always appreciated. Please note the slight change in my address. The postal code is FL. 33102-5275, U.S.A.

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